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Stepping up to the plate

Law professor Randy Dryer elected as the first career-line faculty member in the U's history to lead Academic Senate.

Professor Randy Dryer never shies away from stepping up to the plate to lead.

Law professor Randy Dryer.

Dryer served a total of 17 years on the University of Utah Board of Trustees, stepping down in 2011 after working through the eras of six different university presidents and serving as chairman. Throughout his tenure at the U, the institution grew into a research powerhouse from the smaller, regional institution it had once been in Dryer’s earlier days on campus as a student in the 1970s.

He has spent years in the classroom, and currently mentors students as a Presidential Honors Professor in the Honors College and as a professor (lecturer) at the S.J. Quinney College of Law. He has filled in as the acting dean of the Honors College and developed innovative new courses across campus.

As a law student at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, he served as student bar association president in 1974.

Those diverse experiences will serve Dryer well as he takes on the position of president-elect of the Academic Senate—a body that allows university faculty to legislate on matters of educational policy—starting May 15, 2019.

Dryer’s election to the position marks the first time in the governing board’s 104-year history that a career-line (non-tenure line) faculty member will serve as president. The opportunity comes after a policy change by the Academic Senate to allow career-line faculty—a group that consists of about 45% of faculty on the campus—to serve in a leadership role that previously had been limited to only tenured faculty members.

Comprised of 101 faculty members elected by their respective colleges, two deans elected by other deans and 18 students from ASUU (Associated Students of the University of Utah), the Academic Senate has taken on policy issues related to safety and surveillance, parental leave and standards for website development. Within the Academic Senate, there are 10 standing committees that take a close look at issues such as diversity, budget and planning, academic policy and others.

The senate will examine several issues in the months ahead, including policies related to the recognition, approval and governance of institutes, centers and bureaus on campus. Faculty review standards for tenured and career-line faculty is also a discussion on the docket.

“One of the reasons why I want to do this now is to meaningfully contribute to the university’s upward trajectory that has resulted from the vision and dynamic leadership we have with President Ruth V. Watkins,” Dryer said. “It’s exciting to be a part of the university as it grows its national and international stature.”

Dryer follows a legacy of other College of Law faculty who have previously held the position of Academic Senate president, including professors Leslie Francis, Bob Flores and Linda Smith. The senate has had diverse representation from other parts of campus as well over the course of its history.

Dryer’s colleagues say he’s the right candidate for the job as the U continues to evolve under Watkins’ vision and strategy of “One U,” devoted to fostering collaboration and promoting student success by preparing students from diverse backgrounds for lives of impacts as leaders and citizens while also advancing discoveries and innovation through research.

“I can’t think of anyone better suited to serve as senate president than Randy Dryer,” said Bob Adler, dean of the College of Law. “He has a career full of experience in solving problems and helping people, and a true passion for the value of higher education.”

“Speaking as a former senate president and the longtime senate policy officer, and having worked closely with professor Dryer for many years in senate service and in many other contexts, I am confident that he will carry out the duties of the senate presidency with great devotion, skill and honor,” said Flores, who serves as the Academic Senate policy liaison. “He will be an outstanding representative of the university faculty and a champion of academic freedom and integrity.”

For Dryer, the new role will add to an already impressive legacy of university service. He’ll spend one year as president-elect, one year as president and one year as past president. Besides his work at the U, he also remains as counsel to Parsons Behle & Latimer, Utah’s oldest and largest law firm.

At a glance: What does the Academic Senate do?

The Academic Senate acts for University of Utah faculty “in all matters of educational policy, including requirements for admissions, degrees, diplomas, certificates, and curricular matters involving relations between colleges or departments.” The senate’s powers include:

  • Receiving and considering reports from all faculty committees, councils, departments, divisions, schools, colleges, faculties, libraries, other academic units and administrative officers, and to take appropriate action thereon within the scope of this authority.
  • Considering matters of professional interest and faculty welfare and making recommendations to the university president and other administrative officers concerned.
  • Proposing to the Board of Trustees amendments or additions to the university regulations for the government of the university.

More about the Academic Senate is available here.